Welcome to Bangkok, Thailand: A First-Timer's Travel Diary
ULTIMATE THROWBACK POST FROM 2008 REMEMBERED: So this is Bangkok.... Big Time City. I love it already. It's dirty but worth the trip.
I arrived during midday, and i was sweating big time. I was wearing my black tee. Yeah, good choice. I couldn't stand anymore the heat. When i arrived, it was chaos everywhere. A lot of people in black clothing parading the busy streets. Some where seating and chatting, most local thai people were walking. Some women were crying. Good thing though, busy Khao San was car-free. I've heard a lot about Bangkok traffic. It was closed. I still didn't know yet what was happening. I walked and walked, trying to find Soi 1. Originally, i wanted to stay in Soi guesthouse, hostel named a guesthouse. I tried to cross the bridge. This was the view.
When i crossed the bridge , i saw Pasig River. It's a dirty canal with houses built next to wooden sticks and shit. Nothing like the waters of Southern Thailand. And the ambiance of tropical islands. I walked there and saw numerous pictures of a Thai lady in the palace. Must have been the queen, eh. I walked in wonder.
Apparently, it was the sister of the King. I passed by a small gathering of local Thais giving food and drinks to people. That's what i find interesting in Bangkok, whenever there's a special gathering going on, they supply everyone food and drinks for free. Little did i know, that someone would pass a bottled water to me. I was shocked. I didn't know what to do. Should i give it back? Or is it rude? He must have thought i was Thai and that i was wearing black for the obvious reasons. I said thank you. And he looked at me wondering... "You're no thai, brotha'!"
I continued to walk. I checked my money. Okay, i didn't lose my money but i have no Thai bahts left. I need to exchange my money. How will i be able to stay in any guesthouse without giving a down payment for the room? I searched the nearest foreign currency exchange. it was closed. One local i talked to said, banks are closed during holiday. I asked... "What holiday". He pointed the big picture of the Thai lady in the throne. He said... "She died!". Oh. No. because it's bad enough someone would die and whats worse is i don't have money because banks are closed.
I tried my best to carry the heavy duffel while pursuing the heat of midday sun. On my way, i got to experience how it is to walk in Khao San Road. The ratio of people here is worse than Krabi town. Farangs to local Thais are 3:1. They're that many. Most of the people i saw were seating on pubs and bars drinking beer, chatting and men making their moves on local Thai girls. A lot of old people alone. Yeah, i think i know why. The place is huge but it's packed. You can get everything here: food, medicines, accommodations, beers, crickets (yeah, yeah) and of course Thai massages both for the clean and naughty stuff. And then, like an oasis in the middle of the desert, there it was - Foreign Currency Change. Oh yeah, most definitely. I changed my US dollars to Thai baht. I'm rich again. Just kiddin'. I returned back to where i was to find Soi 1 . I asked locals where Soi 1 was.
I am officially bad at map reading. I couldn't find a place next to where i am at specifically. And the fatigue was killing me. I almost lost my patience. It says it's right here, then where is it??? I tried walking. I saw a lot of hotels. I didn't wanna go in and check because i don't like staying in hotels not only because it's expensive, but because people who stay in hotels in Bangkok are business people. One lesson learned is Bangkok doesn't have hostels. Soi 1 guesthouse is a hostel priced at 350 baht/night... The city has guesthouses.
I walked around. Used the internet for a while to research for any recommended guesthouses nearby, from lonely planet. Originally, i wanted to stay in Khao San road. But something was telling me to go and just walk. And so, I did just that. I saw a really good looking Thai girl which happens to be Claudia. I asked her if she knew were soi 1 is. She said..."It's here"... And somewhere in between our mostly hand gestures than talk, she said... "we have a guesthouse for you". I walked with her. And came to Sinat Guesthouse. My home for almost a week.
At first, i looked in the fourth floor of the really quaint guesthouse as i needed to see the room. The room was huge, it was a fan room, with two beds combined, and breezy. I said, "i just grab Pepsi in can first and then i smoke, okay?" To cut the long story short, i left and tried to look for some more, asked and asked and came back to Sinat because i think i found a really really good price for a room that's real beauty. I paid.... 180 baht/night. I am soooo sooo happy i stayed in this dope guesthouse.
I was seating in the front of the restaurant when a tall white boy appeared and greets the girls Thai Sawadee something. He's staying in the guesthouse as well. Thank goodness somebody else is staying. I don't wanna stay in a place where i'm the lone visitor. (This was 2008, guys.) After a few minutes, an old american guy with his son went downstairs and left. I knew i would be staying here already so i went up to the Thai girl and introduced myself and said "I'm staying."
Immediately when i said that, she asked me where i'm from i said Philippines. She just smiled. I signed the form, showed my passport and i was escorted to my room. I love that room. Room 42.
I can still remember. 42 was changed from room something because i could still see the old number, somehow. I lied down on my bed. Took a breath. It was a looong journey getting to where i was at that time. I fixed my stuff. I have so many soiled clothes, i need to do my laundry. I needed to take a shower to freshen up. I went downstairs to borrow some towels because i didn't bring any. Don't bring towels, they'll bulk up your bag.
So, there i was talking to the Thai girl who was listening to her MP3 player and sweeping the floors. She looks a lot like a Filipina. I said "can i borrow a towel?" She didn't understand what i was saying. Oh no! That went on for ten minutes or so till finally used my hand gestures. I was showing her... Shower with waters dropping on my face and then me wiping my body. Toweel! Toweel! And then she said, okay!
But this picture was taken the next day, we got to know each other very well. Adam and I were fooling around with the Thai girls at Sinat Guest House. Fun Times there! I miss them all!
She continued what she was doing, sweeping the otherwise squeeky clean receiving area, and humming some tunes. I couldn't believe it. It went on for ten more minutes till the white boy who i saw earlier went up to her and asked for the same thing. Towels! I just said... "I've been here for close to thirty minutes, but she's not getting my towels, she's just cleaning..." When he talked to the thai girl again. That changed her mind. She said... "ok, ok!". We got our towels. The white boy is actually a friendly guy. I took a shower and went downstairs to meet up with him for some snack. That's good as i have no idea where to go in Bangkok and it's getting dark already. We went to a hawker stall a few blocks away from my guesthouse and ordered some Thai fried rice. Talked for a while. He's working in Canada and he saved up big time so he can travel for two years. His next stop, Pnom Penh and then to India Pre-Bombing in Mumbai. And he told me "i didn't know you was not thai! I said, why the fuck is he speaking in straight english!". I said, Filipinos are the best! By the way, that white boy is Adam and he's from Calgary. He's now my long lost brother from Canada.
The next few days were spent me waking up around 9AM pretty hungry, i always hang out with Adam so we go wherever in the afternoon, tag team, drink beer, chase Thai girls, make a full of ourselves ( some Thai girl almost slapped us in the face) and swears (fuck, asshole, sucker shit) all the time. Oh, and play a lot of hip-hop tunes, play cards and show off magic tricks, get drunk and get some shit and say good night to Claudia and Nok, the Thai girls at Sinat.
What to see in Bangkok.
Bangkok is a big, big city. It's impossible that you can't find something to do here. There's always something to do somewhere. Go, and just find it. Walking alone either in the morning or at night is advisable. It's pretty safe around here.
I walk sometimes at around 3AM, and i'm still in one piece. Walking instead of riding a cab or Tuk-Tuk is great as you can see the many sights, sounds, smells of the the city. And you can kiss goodbye the annoying Bangkok traffic jam. I did walk to the Canal where you can get a boat stopping at different points. Adam went to a hospital museum where they preserve decapitated heads, bones, and fetuses. I didn't go there.
For the first time in my life, i stepped on canal water and it's in Bangkok. Good Job! I couldn't resist it, honestly, there's no choice for me... it's either i go back again for 2 kilometers or i brave the water for 10 seconds. I did the later and nothing happened so it's ok. You can find also the best beef fried rice in Bangkok near the canal. The meat was tender, there were lots of garlic and pepper. I was so full. It's nice to be full and then walk again. And the canal in late afternoon is a good spot to dine, breezy and good view of boats docking.
Some days, Adam would read his Indian traveler book. It's a pretty thick book. The plot is quite interesting as it is about some backpacker travelling across India.
And i would walk alone to the different temples and palaces and parks.
But i guess, it wasn't really my journey to oggle at the temples and the palaces. It was bad timing for me because there was a procession going on, the king is going to the grand palace. Everyone's just waiting for his arrival. Everything's closed. Everything stops because of his highness.
I savored the moment and took pictures of myself with the high walls covering the majestic palace and temple. I didn't even have an idea what it is, as i wasn't able to go inside.
I also went to arts museum to see what's Bangkok Art Scene like, This picture below is a graffiti i saw made out of spray paint in an abandoned glasshouse. It's young and punk!
...and i'm really surprised because the paintings and the sculptures in the museum was engaging, thought provoking, witty but it was idealistic. I am not an expert in Art, but their art is amazing. It doesn't need all that tags as impressionist, abstract, etc. One painting that i couldn't forget was that of an underage high school girl painting her lips with red lipstick while looking at the mirror. From that moment i saw the painting, i knew what it was all about. And i didn't have to say it was getting ready for prostitution, right?
Which leads us to Bangkok's infamous nightlife. Bangkok is alive at night.
You can find whatever you're looking for here, literally. Walk straight up, you can find decent bars with really loud jungle and drum n' bass music in Khao San. It's on the second floor of a forgettable shop below. There's a billiards table there, some Heineken and a lot of American girls still drinking buckets. You know right away they came from Koh Phangan. Really good vibe going on!
There's also a bar that's so lit up in orange, it's packed, mostly Europeans, there's big LCD screen showing some football and really annoying pop music. You'll notice it right away.
Walk up and you'll see numerous massage parlors for a really sweet Thai massage at under 200 baht for three hours, i guess. And the hawkers stall that doesn't sleep, they're there 24 hours! Lovely.
But if you're on a tight budget like me, you can drink in a standing room only bar. I down beer everyday. Sometimes, i start mid afternoon, and walk around and then freshen up at the guesthouse for a while and come back to party some more. And you may be surprised to see some impromptu drum beats playing, a lot of percussionists, and hippes dancing. My kind of place!
But, it's night time again the next day. Time to hit the bars, my friend. Went to Khao San Road. It was simply amazing. I said this many many times... It's fuckin' alliiiivvvveee!!!
You can see lights from bars, stalls selling clothes, cheap finds, and a lot of beautiful Thai girls walking by. Immediately, we both found something in common. Giiirrrrllllssss! Every night, is a night to look forward to. Went to a bar in one of the many alleys, i ordered for a Lao beer as highly recommended by Adam, he ordered some fruit shake. He just doesn't drink beer, he sure gulps liters and liters of water and electrolytes. And i'm acidic with soft drinks in the afternoon and a lot of beers at night.
We saw a Thai girl seated opposite to us. She was drinking rhum coke. Lovely lady. Oh, how expensivo in Manila is Jack Daniels, it's actually dirt cheap in bangkok. We approached the Thai girl and chatted for a while. We introduced ourselves to her, and she did as well. She's a salon shop owner who part times as a dj. Wow! And then it ended... relax guys, it's not what you're thinking. That's the beauty of Thailand. Expect the unexpected. As we were trying to pay for our drinks. By the way, Lao beer is pretty strong beer, 1 big bottle and i'm smiling shit already. So, back to paying - little did we know, she paid for our drinks. She did. All of it. We were so thankful, but its still some Thai baht saved. You'll need it later, you'll see. So you see, a little smile and friendly vibe, and you get to meet new friends, get good company, and most of all - get free drinks for the night.
And of course, there's Patpong. I've not been to Pattaya 1 and 2. Yes there are two Pattayas. I guess there's a clamor for you know. Anyway, i won't go into details because it's not proper to write about anyone's experience to Patpong, not in detail i suppose. But it's really weird to see giant sign of Super Pussy Bar while kids are playing around while their moms are buying fake bags. Just weird.
Every street in Patpong has something for your liking. Walk along. You'll know it. So, we got to Cocos, it's a bar in Patpong. We rode a taxi going to this place at around 80 baht. Good thing, Adam met up with Roslyn, he's the boyfriend of the beautiful Thai girl at Sinat. So at least won't get ripped off or anything like that. We got inside to a bar that has no cover charge. We went inside. Ordered for some Tiger beer. BTW, be careful with your money as some of old Thai waitresses get your change as their tips. Yeah, right! Don't give it to them. That's why it's called a tip. No more details after, i'm a gentleman!... Just these two saying Wow!
On the left corner is Roslyn whose Thai but says to the girls he's Malaysian, I, obviously taking the picture is honest to say i'm from the Philippines but they won't believe me, Adam says he has to admit he's thai! Craaaazy night!
We left the bar and saw a wiiiild huge elephant's ass roaming around the city. I actually have a picture of it, what is this poor creature doing here in this sleazy side of Bangkok? WTF?
I can honestly say that there's so much to explore in Bangkok at night. If you're not up for Patpong, there's a lot of small bars, and huge dance clubs around. Bangkok is bustling now. You can find your way around, just talk to people. They'll help you out find your way to the best clubs/bars in town. It's a 24 hour bar that is disguising as a city. Get the picture.